Föhrenbergkreis Finanzwirtschaft

Unkonventionelle Lösungen für eine zukunftsfähige Gesellschaft

Posts Tagged ‘Economist’

Emmanuel Macron’s reforms are working, but not for him

Posted by hkarner - 23. Februar 2020

Date: 20‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist

Unemployment in France is falling. So are the president’s poll ratings

Abroad grin spreads across Aboubacar Koumbassa’s face as he displays the result of his morning’s class: a tray of oven‑hot pains‑aux‑raisins (currant pastries), which he and his classmates have baked for the first time. The 18‑year‑old, in a white chef’s cap and apron, had originally hoped for an apprenticeship as an electrician. But it was easier to secure one at a bakery. He now spends one week in three in the classroom, travelling over an hour by train. The other two weeks he is learning on the job. “I made the right choice,” he says, carefully inspecting his pastry, “because this is teamwork. Here we learn the theory, and at my firm we are really working.”

Apprenticeships offer a much‑needed path out of France’s highly academic school system and into the world of work. The Campus des Métiers, where Mr Koumbassa studies, lies in the Paris suburb of Seine‑Saint‑Denis, a neighbourhood of brutalist tower blocks with a poverty rate twice the national average. The centre trains some 1,400 apprentices, in subjects ranging from car mechanics and plumbing to hairdressing and patisserie. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Who will benefit most from the data economy?

Posted by hkarner - 23. Februar 2020

Date: 20‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist

It is already unequal and that inequality could get worse

The data economy is a work in progress. Its economics still have to be worked out; its infrastructure and its businesses need to be fully built; geopolitical arrangements must be found. But there is one final major tension: between the wealth the data economy will create and how it will be distributed. The data economy—or the “second economy”, as Brian Arthur of the Santa Fe Institute terms it—will make the world a more productive place no matter what, he predicts. But who gets what and how is less clear. “We will move from an economy where the main challenge is to produce more and more efficiently,” says Mr Arthur, “to one where distribution of the wealth produced becomes the biggest issue.”

The data economy as it exists today is already very unequal. It is dominated by a few big platforms. In the most recent quarter, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook made a combined profit of $55bn, more than the next five most valuable American tech firms over the past 12 months. This corporate inequality is largely the result of network effects—economic forces that mean size begets size. A firm that can collect a lot of data, for instance, can make better use of artificial intelligence and attract more users, who in turn supply more data. Such firms can also recruit the best data scientists and have the cash to buy the best ai startups. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Are there too many central bankers?

Posted by hkarner - 23. Februar 2020

Date: 22‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist

Euro‑area banks look especially flabby

Central bankers around the world have long pondered the causes of a slowdown in productivity. Might they be part of the problem? Many national central banks in the euro area have shed staff in the two decades since they ceded many of their responsibilities to the ecb.

Yet they still look flabby: the central banks of Germany, France and Italy have many more employees than the Bank of England, whose duties have grown over the same period.

In their defence the Europeans could point to the payroll of America’s Federal Reserve system. Its Board of Governors in Washington, dc, where most responsibility resides, had about 2,800 employees at the last count. But its network of less important reserve banks had another 19,500 Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The big tech firms’ shares have been on a tear

Posted by hkarner - 22. Februar 2020

Date: 20‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist

Subject: How to make sense of the latest tech surge 

In 2018 a new word entered Silicon Valley’s lexicon: the “techlash”, or the risk of a consumer and regulatory revolt against big tech. Today that threat seems empty. Even as regulators discuss new rules and activists fret about the right to privacy, the shares of the five biggest American tech firms have been on a jaw‑dropping bull run over the past 12 months, rising by 52%.

The increase in the firms’ combined value, of almost $2trn, is hard to get your head round: it is roughly equivalent to Germany’s entire stockmarket. Four of the five—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft—are each now worth over $1trn. (Facebook is worth a mere $620bn.) For all the talk of a techlash, fund managers in Boston, London and Singapore have shrugged and moved on. Their calculus is that nothing can stop these firms, which are destined to earn untold riches. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Make Europe Boring Again!

Posted by hkarner - 17. Februar 2020

Date: 13‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist: Charlemagne

The EU celebrates an outbreak of dull stability by having petty rows

For much of the past decade, if you asked a Eurocrat: “What’s on your mind?”, the response was usually dramatic. At the start of the decade the euro teetered on the edge of collapse. In the middle of it, Greece came close to being kicked out. A crisis flared when nearly 3m asylum‑seekers arrived from Syria and other troublespots. Shortly after that, Britain, then the eu’s second‑largest economy, voted to leave without a serious plan for doing so. Meanwhile, populists from across the spectrum itched to upturn the comfy order that those in Brussels were attempting to build. In short, life in Brussels was exciting. For years, officials had treated the city like a visit to a proctologist: necessary but disagreeable. Suddenly, the eu’s de facto capital became like a political rollercoaster—terrifying, but strangely thrilling, too.

Those days are over. Brussels has become reassuringly dull again. Ask a passing Eurocrat what’s up and the answer is prosaic: haggling over the eu’s budget. When eu leaders next visit Brussels on February 20th, it will be to discuss the bloc’s spending. Britain’s departure has left a hole of €60bn in the eu’s funding. Spread over seven years and between 27 countries, the sum becomes easier to swallow. The upshot is that, to keep spending roughly the same, eu countries are being asked to cough up between 1% and 1.1% of gross national income—only a whisker more than last year.

To spice things up, diplomats from both ends of the debate are behaving as if a gap of 0.1% of their income—the equivalent of a cold snap in winter or a few wet weeks in summer—is a fiscal Mariana Trench. A hard‑core gang consisting of the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Austria have demanded that the eu spend no more than 1% of its members’ gni. Another group, led by those countries from central and eastern Europe that gorge on handouts from Brussels, are refusing to sign off on anything so paltry as a budget of 1%. “They want the till to open!” despaired one diplomat from the tightwad camp. With no agreement in sight, leaders from 27 member‑states will spend at least two days arguing over a pitiful amount of money, like monks having a punch‑up over the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Trump unbound

Posted by hkarner - 10. Februar 2020

Date: 07‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist: Lexington

Donald Trump is acquitted by the Senate, adored by his supporters and wholly unrepentant

In announcing her decision to vote to acquit Donald Trump this week, Susan Collins said she believed the president had learned a “pretty big lesson” from his impeachment. When next tempted to extort a foreign leader to frame a political rival, the senator from Maine predicted, he would be “much more cautious”. Another view is that, having established Congress’s inability to restrain him, because of the tribalism of Republicans such as Ms Collins, Mr Trump may feel even more emboldened to disregard any rule or convention that stands in the way of his interests. His third state‑of‑the‑union address, delivered to a packed House chamber on the eve of his acquittal on February 4th, offered evidence for that.

Unlike Bill Clinton, who expressed contrition during his mid‑impeachment sotu speech, Mr Trump did not mention his Ukraine scheme or Senate trial it occasioned—which ended in his acquittal on partisan lines the next day: Mitt Romney was the only Republican who voted to convict. Yet he had already repudiated Ms Collins, telling journalists he had nothing to learn, because his approach to President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect”. And his sotu performance underlined that he truly believes this.

For most of American history, the annual presidential report to Congress was delivered by letter, because of Thomas Jefferson’s fear that a live address might seem too kingly. Yet an elected despot, with fawning courtiers and freedom to mingle personal and public interests at will, is what Mr Trump aspires to be. It is what he maintains, in his claim to unbridled executive power and attacks on institutions that would constrain him, it means to be president. On the eve of his party’s final capitulation to Trumpism, his last pre‑election sotu was an enactment of that unAmerican fantasy. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Nothing to return to‘: Serbia is losing one town every year through population decline

Posted by hkarner - 9. Februar 2020

Date: 08‑02‑2020

Source: Euronews

Uros Trainovic remembers when his mining village in eastern Serbia was a vibrant home to 200 families, had a school of its own, a doctor and a shop.

Sixty years later, what remains is a ghost village with only eight residents.

“It is such a pity and so sad that everybody left,“ the 71‑year‑old recalls. „Now there are only few of us and there are no young people any more.”

The decline of Blagojev Kamen is not unique in a country that experienced years of war and sanctions in the 1990s following the break‑up of Yugoslavia.

Near‑empty villages with abandoned, crumbling houses can be seen all over Serbia — a symptom of a shrinking population that is raising serious questions over the economic well‑being of the country.

One town every year

The numbers look stark. According to the World Bank, Serbia’s population of just below 7 million is projected to fall to 5.8 million by 2050. That would represent a 25% fall since 1990.

The Serbian government says the Balkan country is effectively losing a town each year, and that as many as 18 municipalities have fewer than 10,000 people.

The decline is happening so fast that the United Nations has stepped in to help.

The U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Population Fund have assembled a group of seven international experts of different backgrounds and specialities for a fact‑finding mission. They visited Serbia last month.

Wolfgang Lutz, a demographics expert at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said that the main problem is related to the make‑up of those leaving Serbia rather than the overall population decline.

He told the Associated Press that „it tends to be the better‑educated, the more highly skilled, the more highly motivated mobile people who are leaving, and that is certainly a drain of the human capital.”

Nothing to return to Serbia for

Reflecting the decades of crisis are villages like Blagojev Kamen. It had flourished when a nearby gold mine kept the area alive before and after World War II, but its fortunes have sunk as the mine closed down in the mid‑1990s.

Trainovic said there are still gold and other minerals in the mine but that it needs investment and hard work.

“One of my sons is in Germany and the other one is in Austria,” he said. “They visit often but they have nothing to return to.”

Serbia’s government has tried to buck the trend, offering financial benefits for couples with multiple children, state‑backed IVF, the renovation of schools and daycare centres, aid to families in rural areas or backing for businesses in villages.

Ruth Finkelstein, an assistant professor from Columbia University who is an expert on ageing and its social implications, said Serbia should also strive to find a role for its growing elderly population.

“Room after room, people focus only on the young people,” she said.

Balkan population decline

Serbia is not the only eastern European country worried by its population decline.

Its EU member neighbour, Croatia, has made the issue of „demographic challenges” a priority. Croatia’s rural areas have been emptying at an alarming rate while more than 15% of Croatia’s 4.2 million people are living and working abroad. Bulgaria and Ukraine are two others enduring population declines.

Stjepan Sterc, a prominent Croatian demography expert, thinks the efforts to deal with the problems so far across the Balkans are not enough and that the tax system has to be more focused on reversing the trends.

“Demography should be recognized as the essence of economic development so that the most important encouragement tool is directed toward it,” he said.

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The digital side of the Belt and Road Initiative is growing

Posted by hkarner - 9. Februar 2020

Date: 06‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist

Many believe it is where much of the rivalry over the plan will play out in future

One tropical evening in November, the 9,800‑tonne Ile de Bréhat slipped from the quay at Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, and steamed out of Iron Bottom Sound. For weeks the boat had been a familiar sight as it finished its job of laying 4,700km of fibre‑optic cable from Sydney to Honiara on Guadalcanal and 730km among the main outlying islands, with another branch heading to Port Moresby, capital of neighbouring Papua New Guinea. Less than a fifth of Solomon Islanders have access to the internet. The Ile de Bréhat is about to transform more lives than any ship since the Los Reyes, the first European vessel to discover the islands, in 1567.

Two‑thirds of the $93m cost of the Coral Sea Cable System was borne by the Australian government. It got wind that China was proposing to do the job, led by Huawei, China’s telecoms giant. Australian intelligence types view Huawei as a national‑security concern. Australia is also the biggest donor to Pacific Island nations and is used to being top dog in its backyard. It told leaders in Honiara and Port Moresby that Huawei was not to be considered.

Yet Australia has taken its eye off the Pacific in recent years, as China has stolen a march. Two‑way trade with the Pacific has grown tenfold, from under $1bn in 2005 to over $8bn in 2018. Chinese tourists to the region jumped from under 4,000 a year a decade ago to more than 140,000 in 2017. China’s leaders extol the potential for bri co‑operation with Pacific nations. A “new Pacific diplomacy” has gathered pace since President Xi Jinping made his first trip to the region in late 2014. Pacific Island leaders frequently head for China. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The parable of the plug

Posted by hkarner - 8. Februar 2020

Date: 06‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist: Charlemagne

How plugs explain the potential and limits of the EU’s strange superpower

The british plug is a marvel of design. Its insulated prongs make electric shocks nigh on impossible, even if it is hanging out of the socket. Shutters cover the live holes on the socket until the earth is engaged, meaning even the most adventurous toddlers struggle to electrocute themselves. Yank out the cable and the live wires will disconnect before the earth, further reducing the chance of anyone being fried. It is probably the safest plug on the planet (unless trodden on). Yet apart from Britain and a few countries that lived under its imperial rule, the Great British plug is spurned for flimsy, sometimes dangerous two‑prong affairs.

As sales of British plug adaptors suggest, it takes more than good design for standards to be adopted globally. For such influence, an alchemy of regulatory clout and market power that Britain simply does not possess is required. But it is a blend that the eu has learned to master. Everything from timber production in Indonesia to internet privacy in Latin America is now settled by a bunch of bureaucrats, diplomats, meps and lobbyists in the middle of Belgium. This has been dubbed the “Brussels effect” by Anu Bradford of Columbia Law School, in a new book of the same title, which explains how the eu quietly has become a regulatory superpower. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Cummings v the blob

Posted by hkarner - 8. Februar 2020

Date: 06‑02‑2020

Source: The Economist: Bagehot

The prime minister’s special adviser faces a tough adversary

For a man widely regarded as a cross between Machiavelli and Rasputin, Dominic Cummings has lost a lot of battles lately. The prime minister’s special adviser opposed both Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5g networks and the hs2 rail network (which he labelled “a disaster zone”). Boris Johnson has given the green light to the first and is shortly expected to approve the second. Mr Cummings’s plan to cut the size of the cabinet and create a super‑department of business has been ditched. So have his schemes to turn Downing Street into a nasa‑style mission‑control centre and to ship Conservative Party headquarters to the north of the country.

He suffered yet another embarrassment this week when he tried to challenge the prerogatives of the lobby—the collection of political journalists who get special briefings from “Westminster sources”. Mr Cummings has been waging war on the media for some time, for instance by banning ministers from appearing on programmes that he regards as hostile, and he kicked the conflict up a notch on February 3rd, allowing only selected members of the lobby to attend a briefing. The rejects included a disproportionate number of journalists from left‑wing publications. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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